* and 1/2 out of ****
Taken 3 opened with so much promise. The movie begins with Brian Mills’ (Liam Nieson) daughter, Kimmie (Maggie Grace), discovering she is pregnant from a home paternity kit. Just then, I imagined the rest of the movie consisting of Mills tracking down Maggie’s other-Slim-Shady-looking boyfriend and introducing him to his “specific set of skills” for knocking up his daughter. This would have been epic. Instead, we get a cold rehash of The Fugitive (1993); and, like most three-quels and first-quarter action flicks, it is a reckless, unimaginative mess.
Where Taken 2’s escape scenarios were almost self-satirizing in their blatant impossibility, Taken 3 is just lazy. For one, the police squad from Reno 911 could out smart the cops in this movie. Several times, the captain won’t send a tail to chase Mills because, screw it, he’ll just lose them anyhow. Other times, they’ll send the entire police force through a front entrance or into a single elevator to capture him rather than securing the perimeter. It’s as if amnesia kicks in and they don’t recall how cunning he was just a moment ago...you know, on top of forgetting standard operating procedure. Also, Mills demolishes everything in his path, no doubt harming civilians all while maiming law enforcement and resisting arrest at every turn. Once all is said and done, he shakes hands with the police chief and goes on his merry way – JUST like it would happen in real life, right?
While these are common sense issues ignored for the sake of advancing the plot and providing a satisfying ending, there is an ever-present absence of attention to detail that stinks up this entire film. For example, when Mills rendezvouses with his daughter at her university, you see lockers lining all of the halls. Lockers? This scene was clearly filmed at a high school. Ok, maybe I’m just being picky, but this bothered me.
Another minor peeve of mine is the misleading title: it’s called Taken 3 (or Tak3n, take your pick)… so why does no one get taken? I know, it is a franchise now and the title merely implies the return of the original cast, but it still gripes me. The same phrasing pecked at my patience during Hangover III (which sucked on every conceivable level, but I digress) when at no point did anyone suffer a hangover. Imagine a The Fast and the Furious sequel with no cars. Heck, Nieson’s early 2014 plane-hijaking thriller Non-Stop was technically more of a Taken film.
However, Taken 3’s fatal blow is the choppy editing. Watching the car chases and gunfights in this picture is like trying to decipher those 3-D images in the back of the newspaper while drunk: everything is unfocused and spinning out of control. Half the time you can barely tell what’s going on; the other half, things just come out of nowhere. It’s retinal water boarding.
In closing, is Taken 3 a good movie? That is, is it an original, well-written, meticulously edited slice of cinematic art? No, it’s crap. But so is junk food – and like junk food, fans of the series crave the sugary adrenaline rush delivered from watching Nieson waste a few dozen heavily tattooed, Eastern European Krav Maga freaks while mic-dropping stoic one liners. The crash is a bitch, but it is fun while it lasts.